Bishop J. Jon Bruno announced Nov. 8 that Corporation Sole has prevailed in two legal challenges concerning diocesan property in Newport Beach.
SAVE St. James the Great, an entity of former members of St. James the Great Church in Newport Beach that had brought legal challenges against Corporation Sole has “offered to dismiss its appeal efforts, leaving the previous determination by the [California] Superior Court in favor of Corporation Sole to stand,” according to a letter to the diocesan community emailed from the bishop’s office Nov. 8. The letter also stated that in a separate action, the court dismissed a case brought by the Griffith Company, which asserted that legal restrictions on the Newport Beach property limited how it could be used.
In the letter Bruno also announced the formation of a new $6.3 million endowment fund that will finance ministries to the poor and needy. The endowment is funded by the sale of commercial property held by Corporation Sole in Anaheim.
The full text of Bruno’s letter is below.
November 8, 2017
Dear Diocesan Family,
As I move toward the conclusion of my episcopate, I have important news to share with you.
Corporation Sole Prevails in Both the Griffith and SAVE Legal Challenges
The legal challenges brought against Corporation Sole by an entity called SAVE St. James the Great have been concluded in favor of the Bishop, Corporation Sole. The SAVE entity has offered to dismiss its appeal efforts, leaving the previous determination by the Superior Court in favor of Corporation Sole to stand. As a part of the SAVE dismissal they have requested that I agree to not pursue legal actions against them and their legal counsel for filing a malicious prosecution lawsuit against Corporation Sole in 2015. Although there is sound basis on which to pursue further legal action, so as to fully resolve the conflict, I have agreed to those terms. The Griffith matter was determined separately by the Superior Court on July 11, 2017.
The SAVE entity was formed by a group of individuals including former members of the St. James the Great congregation. A lawsuit was filed by SAVE in June of 2015 against Corporation Sole, thus shielding the individuals, in an attempt to assert certain rights over Newport Beach church property. The Court has clearly affirmed that neither SAVE nor the individuals who make up SAVE or any members of the previous congregation, have standing to assert rights of any kind over the property.
Similarly, the Griffith Company was encouraged to assert and claim that a restriction on sale and use of the property existed. This assertion required a legal action response by Corporation Sole. The Court has determined Griffith’s claims also to be without merit and legal basis. To quote the Superior Court’s judgment, “…Griffith has no right, title, estate, lien, or interest whatsoever in the Church’s (Corporation Sole) property or any part thereof…” and goes on to state that the use restriction “is released and/or is otherwise unenforceable and invalid, and Griffith has no interest that is adverse to the Church in the Property. Title to the property is quieted in the Church’s favor as of June 26, 2015.”
It is unfortunate that after nine years and millions of dollars of legal expense of property litigation required to establish clear legal claim by Corporation Sole and the Diocese over church property due to four breakaway congregations, Corporation Sole had to again spend significant sums to protect the ownership of the Newport Beach property. Such money in Corporation Sole could and should have been used for needed ministry in our Diocese.
I am glad these legal challenges have been once again and finally resolved prior to the conclusion of my episcopate. As of December 1st Bishop Taylor will be the new incumbent of Corporation Sole, and he will be free of these legal challenges to do with the property what he determines to be in the best interest of the Diocese. I pray that when it is decided it will be helpful in relieving stress on the Diocese which remains property rich and cash poor.
$6.3 Million Poor and Needy Endowment Fund Created
I am also happy to announce that a new Corporation Sole endowment fund, whose earnings are restricted to being used for the poor and needy, has been established and funded with a corpus of $6.3 million. I have promised to the Diocese that such a fund would be created and I am pleased this has been accomplished prior to the completion of my episcopate. Bishop Taylor is aware of this fund and its restrictions. A portion of the fund’s earnings will be used for missions and assist in meeting the deficit in the 2018 budget of the Mission Share Fund.
This fund has been created independently and without any proceeds from a sale of the Newport Beach property. The source of funding for this endowment is from the sale of commercial property held by Corporation Sole in Anaheim, California. I and my Chief of Staff have been working on maximizing the value of this gifted property since 2005 when Corporation Sole only held a 25% interest until the recent close of escrow when Corporation Sole held a 100% interest.
I am thankful to Ledger and Gladys Smith for their gift some 35 years ago to Corporation Sole which has allowed for this new endowment to be created and which in turn will greatly assist future Bishops of our Diocese in their ministry to the poor and needy.
I am thankful for the last 18 years and the ministry we have we accomplished together. May God bless each of you as you continue your ministries.
Yours in Christ,
+J. Jon Bruno Sixth Bishop of Los Angeles